Have you ever met someone with a weak handshake? Upon greeting this individual it feels like your gripping a dying fish. Immediately you’re thinking, ‘this guy doesn’t even lift’. Grip, whether it comes to a handshake or a deadlift, is a true mark of strength.
One of the biggest prides of a competitive strongman is that of his grip and ability to maintain it under timed situations. The majority of strongman meets contain a carry implement event involving weight, time or both. With this in mind, a strongman must not only develop their grip to carry themselves through the event but short term cardio to quickly work through the event itself. The best way to train this is doing just that… The Carry Medley.
The Carry Medley is a very simple concept with numerous applications. We basically carry an odd (or conventional) object(s) for a set distance at a set or ascending weight, for time. Objects can include farmer’s handles, stones, atlas stones, kegs, dumbbells, barbells or even plates. Though safety is questionable regarding some objects given a user’s experience and coaching, just about any object you can logically carry from point A to B would suffice to program into a carry medley; and if you think all it takes is grip strength and a pair of lungs you are incredibly wrong.
Carry work hits just about anything you can think of, from core, shoulder girdle, posterior chain, mobility, and cardio. Being inevitably so taxing on the system, it is important to start slow and keep your objects simple when starting out.
“Your central nervous system takes a big hit from excessive grip work so keep that in mind when programming for your week in relation to recovery.”
Try sticking to dumbbells or farmer’s handles for your first few programmed carries for a moderate distance of maybe 25ft. Once you have a good feel of how your body handles different weights over different distances, you can start to implement timing concepts and different objects. The breakdown of a carry is very simple from the start, but it varies by the object.
- Begin by setting your grip and getting your object in hand via deadlift logically close to the body. Maintaining a solid center of gravity is important and the more awkward you carry your object, the harder your carry will be.
- Your spine should be as neutral as your object will allow. Leaning slightly to accommodate a keg or stone would be exceptions of this, but remember that a lean is not a fully over-extended spine.
- Step simply and short, heel to toe. “Walk On the Rail Road Tracks” keeping your steps steady and tempoed. The smoother and more controlled your walk, the easier it will be to go from A to B. (Remember, this is in theory. If you start carrying stuff on chains or dragging stuff, don't expect it to be easy.)
The application of the ‘Carry Medley’ can be for just about anyone. Displacement of weight and consistent movement of a carry can do just that, and it can pose as a great replacement for short distance cardio work for a variety of goals and disciplines. The general population can benefit greatly from them as well. For strength athletes, I always recommend more of a focus on weight to distance with work sets going moderate for time. For endurance/recomposition athletes, I find a moderately-weighted carry for longer distance for time and strict rest time to be of larger benefit.
In the end, carrying heavy stuff for distance and time can benefit anyone. Being such an everyday movement, it takes very little coaching for simple objects and a careful eye on spine alignment with heavy weight. The end all and be all for medley work is to get creative, make it fun, and keep it safe for the spine. You’re not made of steel, but make like a boss. Get those hands around something crazy!
Prepared by Rob Saeva
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